There are many reasons to have a rhythm to your days: small children under seven crave stability and knowing what is going to happen; rhythm helps regulate such physiological processes as sleepiness and appetite; rhythm teaches children that home life is reliable and that parents are dependable; rhythm provides a balance so the needs of all in the household is addressed; and rhythm addresses the place of us as humans within the larger context of time and seasons.
Also,to me, an most important part of having a family rhythm is that it is an outward way of expressing your family’s values. A family that values gardening, for example is going to have a rhythm that looks different than a family whose life includes lots of music. Rhythm is another way that forces us, as parents, to be mindful as to what we are creating as family life, what is essential, what our mission is as a family in raising our children. The beginning of a new year is always a wonderful time to go back and review your family mission statement. If you do not have a family mission statement, it might be an interesting process for you to ponder and go through.
I talk to so many women who state that garnering a rhythm is just plain hard. Their main complaints and challenges about rhythm center around several things:
1. That rhythm is too forced and scheduled. My argument to that is perhaps these ladies are trying to build too elaborate a rhythm. Rhythm is different than a minute by minute schedule. If your life right now is diapering, naps, mealtimes because you have toddlers and very small children, then your rhythm IS those things. Nothing more, unless you think there needs to be something very essential added to that.
2. Rhythm is set in stone and therefore rigid. I think of rhythm as a flexible and adjustable thing that changes with each day of the week, and with the seasons of the church and the seasons of the year. Here is a back post about changing your rhythm with the seasons:http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/17/changing-your-rhythm-with-the-seasons/ Rhythm also changes as children grow and family situations change.
3. That they, themselves, are too irregular (and what they are not saying is that this irregularity leads them to not be able to set a rhythm for their family).
Ah, well that is something different right there. The baby steps to rhythm can often be challenging for mothers. It is hard to be the leader sometimes,and move children toward bedtimes and mealtimes…but the more days that this leading happens in a row, the more it will naturally happen, the more the resistance to rhythm will decrease.
Baby steps happen with getting up at the same time each day, and having meals at the same time each day. This will naturally put naptimes and therefore bedtimes in the right place. If you want your children to have an earlier bedtime, chances are you have to have an earlier naptime, and in order for that to happen, youall have to get up. And in order to get up, you actually have to go to bed and not stay up all night. If your small children are waking up frequently all night, then going to bed earlier will help you cope with this.
This back post may also be helpful to you: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/01/05/rhythm-for-the-irregular/
4. Rhythm doesn’t work for them because the rhythm is too harried and too “packed in”. I say to these mothers that they must discern the essential. You must add in the: extra time it will take to get out the door with five children, the time you will need to clean up from a meal or an activity, the extra time something will take in general because the children are very small. A rhythm, to me, must be simple to work.
Awhile back, I loved Rebecca’s description here of the simple, unhurried rhythm around personal care for toddlers: http://bendingbirches2010.blogspot.com/2011/06/personal-care-for-young-children.html
If we are to provide health to our children, one way to start is with a peaceful rhythm.
I think in planning rhythm, there are three levels we must consider:
1. Rhythm for ourselves
2. Rhythm for the people and pets in our family
3. Rhythm for taking care of the “things” in our family, and the errands that support those taking care of those things.
I recently sat down and made simple tables for each day detailing the general flow to our day, and in the empty box on the right of the descriptor I made notes specific for that day and activity. It was very easy, and helped me really get back on track after the holidays.
More thoughts in my next post on rhythm!
Many blessings, and in joy,